Vinson: Doing business on line can be deadly

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It's common knowledge that a majority of today's business and communication are conducted "online," meaning, essentially, that you/your business uses a computer to send and receive data, info, charts, designs, manuscripts, etc.

 For example, I e-mailed this particular column to The Murfreesboro Post. Of course, I first had to go online and type it up on my laptop before hitting "send." Pretty simple stuff in today's world, right?  For a large number of folks-especially the 15-40-year-old age range-I wager the answer is "yes." 

 However, what about those folks who fall in the 50 and older bracket, those who have worked in nurseries and construction and don't know the first thing about a computer? Not so simple!

  The man who told me the following story is 61-years-old, finished the ninth grade, doesn't own an automobile, has a family of five, and is a career nursery worker. He'd been laid off from his nursery job and was drawing unemployment. 

 The rural town in which he resides (Middle Tennessee) had an unemployment office until a year or so back; however, that particular unemployment office was shut down and moved to another town approximately 50 miles away.

 One week, he didn't receive his unemployment check, on which he and his family were totally dependent. He tried calling the unemployment office in question and, according to him, encountered countless impediments getting connected to the "right person": held the line for minutes on end, the right person wasn't in that day, lost his connection and when he attempted to call back got a busy signal, etc.

 Eventually, he got through and was told by an employee at the unemployment office that he would have to " go online" to straighten out the snafu with his much-needed unemployment check.

  When he told the office lady that he didn't even know how to turn on a computer, much less own one, she told him either he would have to find someone computer literate to help him or he would have to make the 100-mile roundtrip to the  unemployment office.

  Low on funds, nerves frazzled, household panicky, he gave me a call and asked for my help. I told him I would drive by and pick him up, take him to a public computer, and see what I could do. I warned him from the get-go, though, that I was not an up-to-date computer whiz, and I might or might not be able to help him.

 We were able to pull up the needed website, but, to make a long, annoying story shorter and less annoying, we were not able to solve the matter online. His face blood red, he said, "If you ask me, all this online s. . .t is a little bit off in the head!"

 The man in question ended up having to pay someone (not me) to drive him roundtrip from his home to the unemployment office to straighten out the matter with his unemployment check. With a dash of ironic humor, since the out-of-work nursery worker was broke at the time, the friend drove him there "on credit," allowing him to settle up when he his unemployment check problem was resolved.

 Similar to the scenario described above, I hear other horror stories about the Social Security Administration and various medical insurance providers: Clients sometimes are forced to go online to keep abreast of changes and, also, to work out problems.

 Now, my friend at 61 still had a bit of youth on his side and, thus, was able to persevere. But what about the 90-year-old couple, one blind, one in a wheelchair, don't drive, no family, and piloting a space shuttle as likely as either of them ever operating a computer.

 Is the System saying "to Hell" with the 90-year-old couple, and others like them?

  While doing business online saves both time and money for some, it could prove deadly for others.

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Mike Vinson
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